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Myanmar forces to screen refugees before delivering aid to Kachin State

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Myanmar government says it will “scrutinize” the identity of refugees in northern Kachin State to ensure insurgents do not receive humanitarian aid after weeks of fighting between the army and an ethnic armed group in the war-torn region.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said on Thursday fears of a delay in delivering aid should not compel the government to give unconditional humanitarian support to those trapped in the village of Aung Lawt.

He also confirmed reports that the ongoing fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic militias, had trapped about 2,000 people in a remote forest near Aung Lawt.

“We got information that shows KIA members might be among the refugees for humanitarian aid … we need to scrutinize whether members of the armed force are among them,” the spokesman said.

“The security forces have concerns. We are trying our best to work out the two situations.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, the government spokesman noted that children, women and the elderly would get priority in receiving aid.

Aid workers say they have had no access to humanitarian aid for more than three weeks.

KIA spokesman Colonel Naw Bu denied the government’s allegation and said the screening would “make things more difficult” for the refugees.

On Tuesday, a UN human rights expert on Myanmar voiced deep concern, citing reports of the army using aerial bombings, heavy weapons and artillery fire on civilian areas.

The ethnic minority militia has regularly clashed with government troops in the mountainous region bordering China and India since 2011, when a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down.

The United Nations recently said thousands of people have been displaced since fighting in the area escalated in early April.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some civilians were unable to leave conflict-affected areas and were taking shelter in churches or with host families where they received initial aid from the government and aid groups.

Thousands of people staged a protest march in Kachin this week to demand humanitarian access for villagers trapped by fighting.

Aid workers have called it the most intense conflict since Kachin militia started fighting the government for greater autonomy in the early 1960s.

Myanmar is already under intense pressure since the military launched yet another heavy-handed crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority group in western Rakhine State on August 25, 2017.

The state-sponsored campaign of violence against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine has forced about 700,000 people to flee to Bangladesh since last August.

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